Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Welcome to the exciting world of standard setting

Since we first learned of ASTM International, that sets voluntary standards for nursery products, KID has been involved in the twice annual meetings that review incidents and recommend changes to the standards that apply to cribs, strollers, high chairs and many other nursery products, as well as toys. It is a sometimes frustrating process as the predominance of manufacturers on the committees and management by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) seem to slow changes to the standards that would address emerging hazards. For instance, it took several years to get a test into the standard to measure whether the sides of a bassinet would actually contain a child and more than ten years of discussion and suggestions for a durability test for cribs left the standard virtually unchanged.

But all that changed with the passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in 2008. Now, with a mandate that the voluntary standards set the basis for a mandatory standard – and CPSC tasked to make the mandatory rules stricter if needed – work on these committees has picked up. In marathon meetings this year, the sub-committees on cribs and non-full sized cribs have drafted significantly more robust standards that have been out to ballot once and will be published sometime this summer. CPSC will use those as the basis for their mandatory standards that Chairman Tenenbaum has promised would be out by the end of the year.

Participation in ASTM is improving – the addition of Toys”R”Us and other retailers adds a new perspective to the group. But consumers are still woefully underrepresented – usually 5 or fewer votes out of more than 50. So any consumers out there who want to get involved in the real work of making children’s products safer – come join us!

Penalties: CPSC Enforces Product Safetly Laws

The CPSC is holding companies accountable for allowing unsafe products to reach store shelves and the homes of millions of children. In 2009, 34 of the 38 total civil penalties were for children’s products. Companies who failed to report unsafe drawstrings on children clothes and those who violated the lead paint ban for children’s toys received the majority of these penalties. The CPSC’s ongoing actions display increased assertiveness in enforcing product safety laws and reinforces that safety comes first. For more information on penalties for dangerous children's products please check out or recent report The Year of the Nursery Product Recall as well as www.cpsc.gov.

How many incidents does it take to get dangerous products recalled?

There were a disturbing number of incidents in the children's products recalled in 2009, prior to recalls being announced. In fact, the number of reported incidents prior to recall more than doubled in comparison to 2008. In 2009, a total 4, 616 incidents were reported prior to the recall of 143 children’s products. The Adventure Playsets had 1,400 incidents reported prior to recall and Simplicity Inc. Rainforest Play Yards had 1,350 incidents prior to recall.

In addition, injuries from recalled children's products totaled 198 before these hazardous products were recalled. Seventeen percent of children’s product recalled involved injuries prior to the recall. Thirty-five percent of recalled nursery products injuries reported before they were removed from the market. Furthermore, Evenflo (for the 3rd year in a row) cause the most injuries prior to recall- the Envision high chair was responsible for 54 injuries.

Lastly, there were nine deaths in recalled children’s products in 2009. Seven out of the nine deaths occurred in sleep environment products including drop side cribs and motions beds. For more information on 2009 product recalls please check out our recent report The Year of the Nursery Product Recall as well as www.cpsc.gov

Once, twice, five times a recall?

In KID's look at 2009 recalls, we noticed that many children's product manufacturers had multiple recalls. Fifteen manufacturers reported more than one recall.

Dorel Juvenile Group and Evenflo Co. Inc. lead in product recalls with five each. Evenflo recalled two high chairs, an activity center, a stationary entertainer and a telephone toy. Dorel (parent company of Safety First, Eddie Bauer, Cosco and other brands) recalled a safety gate (twice), 2 play yards and an infant carrier. The carrier was recalled for handle failure, a recall the company is too familiar with, having three previous recalls for the same flaw.

Not far behind were Simplicity Inc./SFCA and the Land of Nod which each had three separate recalls. The products of these four companies posed several hazards to children including choking, falls, and entrapment. For more information on 2009 product recalls please check out our recent report The Year of the Nursery Product Recall.

Monday, March 29, 2010

2009: the year of the nursery product recall

This morning, Kids In Danger released The Year of the Nursery Product Recall: a look at children's product recalls in 2009. The report found that for the first time, nursery products -- cribs, strollers, high chairs -- accounted for the largest number of children's product recalls. Why?

First, under new leadership, CPSC is taking a harder line against defects in nursery products such as drop-side cribs. Chairman Inez Tenenbaum has pledged to recall defective cribs and pass a mandatory standard this year that bans that troubled design. With an early warning system on sleep products, CPSC recalled twenty sleep products including cribs, hammocks and play yard/bassinet systems.

The more troubling reason for the increase in nursery product recalls may be that the current voluntary industry standards are not doing enough to keep children safe. Nearly all the nursery products that were recalled, and all of them that caused deaths, were certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) as having passed strenuous testing. In addition to the cribs, the recalls highlight design flaws in strollers, high chairs and play yards which were not caught by the voluntary testing. At the press conference, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan shared a letter she has sent to JPMA asking them to immediately remove their seal from any drop-side cribs and encourage their members to offer an incentive to consumers (such as 50% 0ff) to purchase new stationary side cribs. In addition, the Illinois Retail Merchants Association has asked their members to stop the sale of drop-side cribs. Many retailers have already done so.

So the mandatory standards for nursery products required by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) can't come fast enough. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky spoke of first introducing a bill with that requirement in 2001. Now, with a timeline of 2 standards every six months, CPSC has already released the walker and bath seat standards and published the advanced notice of rulemaking for bassinets and toddler beds. Standards for cribs and non-full size cribs are promised for later this year.

In addition, the recalls point to the need for the public database, also required by CPSIA, to alert both CPSC and consumers to injury trends and unsafe products.

So what can parents do? First, check out the report of 2009 recalls as well as the CPSC list of recalled products to make sure you aren't using any. Second, report any problems with nursery products or any other children's product to the manufacturer and CPSC. Check out KID's safe sleep flyer, Product Hazard pages and Advocacy pages for more information.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

CPSC and Infantino recall one million slings after three deaths

Today, Infantino and CPSC announced a recall on the Infantino "SlingRider" and "Wendy Bellissimo" baby slings. Three deaths in the slings were reported in 2009. Owners of these slings should stop using it immediately and return it to Infantino for a replacement product and a very cute free infant toy. The replacement products include a different style carrier, a shopping cart cover or an activity gym.

The deaths all involved a lack of oxygen, caused by the baby's position in the carrier. CPSC announced a warning about slings earlier and gave tips for safe usage. One easy tip to remember is that you should be able to kiss your baby while using a sling -- a reminder to carry your baby high enough and with their head exposed, as well as to check their position often.

CPSC has at least 11 other reports of suffocation or positional asphyxia deaths in slings. It is not clear what other products were involved or if there will be more recalls.

CPSC also reports severe injuries, mostly involving falls and injuries to the head. KID, other consumers groups, manufacturers and CPSC are working on a standard to address safety issues with slings.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

More High Chairs Recalled Due to Fall Hazard

Harmony™ High Chairs by Graco Children's Products Inc. have been recalled due to fall hazard. The screws holding the front legs of the high chair can loosen and fall out and/or the plastic bracket on the rear legs can crack causing the high chair to become unstable and tip over unexpectedly. Graco has received 464 reports of screws loosening/falling out and/or plastic brackets cracking causing the high chair to tip over unexpectedly. These tip-over's resulted in 24 reports of injuries including bumps and bruises to the head, a hairline fracture to the arm, and cuts, bumps, bruises and scratches to the body.

This report follows previous incidents of high chair recalls in 2009 including Fisher Price 3-in-1 High Chairs, Evenflo Majestic™ High Chairs, and Evenflo Envision™ High Chairs, each due to fall and choking hazards caused by hardware problems. It appears the industry needs to consider a stronger standard that addresses hardware failures in high chairs -- similar to the work currently going on to improve crib safety.

For this reason, we ask consumers to continue to learn about children product safety and to check their products for recalls at www.cpsc.gov. Consumers should immediately stop using Graco Harmony™ High Chairs and contact Graco to receive a free repair kit. In addition, if you have had similar problems with these or other high chairs, please report that to CPSC.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Update on baby sling warning

This week, the ASTM International juvenile product subcommittee continued its work on drafting a safety standard for baby slings, wraps and other carriers that don't fall into the soft infant carrier standard. The group is considering performance requirements and tests that will address the hazards of falls and positional asphyxiation and suffocation.

This follows on the heels of CPSC issuing a warning about baby slings after 14 deaths from suffocation or positional asphyxiation. Many sling and wrap manufacturers and retailers have added additional safety information on their sites as well.

While the warning was generally aimed at the many types of slings or wraps that allow a cradle hold where the baby might be put into a position that obstructs their airways; one product was involved in at least three of the deaths. KID recommends parents not use bag style slings and calls on CPSC and the manufacturer to recall the Infantino Sling Rider. Similar products should also be evaluated for possible recall.

Many slings allow an upright carry position that leaves the child's head free and uncovered, limiting the possibility for suffocation. CPSC recommends that a baby's head always be visible and uncovered -- some manufacturers suggest you should always be able to kiss your baby -- a way to make sure the head is raised and visible. Without a standard in place, slings can still present a risk of falls. The fall injuries reported to CPSC are very serious -- fractured skulls; closed head injuries and broken bones.

Friday, March 12, 2010

CPSC warning released about sling carriers for infants

Today CPSC released their warning on the hazards of the popular infant sling carriers. CPSC is currently investigating 14 deaths in sling-style infant carriers, three of which occurred in 2009. Twelve of the deaths involved babies younger than 4 months old.

Sling carriers pose two different types of suffocation hazards: because babies have weak neck muscles in the first few months of life, the sling fabric can press against a baby's nose and mouth, cutting off their air supply; also, the sling can put a baby in a curled position where their chin bends onto their chest, restricting their airway.

For these reasons, extreme caution should be observed in using slings with preemies, babies with low birth weight, respiratory problems or other health problems, and babies under 4 months old. Parents of babies with these risks should consult their pediatrician about using a sling.

Infant sling carriers have been added to the list of infant and toddler products requiring mandatory safety standards. CPSC is working with ASTM International to immediately develop a voluntary standard for sling carriers.

CPSC recommends when using a sling carrier to make sure that the baby's face is not covered and is visible at all times to the wearer, and to check the baby frequently.

One of the products involved in at least three of the deaths, is a bag style sling by Infantino. KID is calling on CPSC to continue to investigate that specific product, as well as others involved in deaths, to see if they should be recalled. The new database required by CPSIA would have brought these deaths to light much sooner. We look forward to its full implementation by next March.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

CPSC to issue warning on slings

At a speech today to the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA), CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum announced that CPSC will soon issue a safety warning about a popular parenting item -- the baby sling.

While slings in some form have been around for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, they are becoming a popular way to carry an infant or toddler -- keeping the baby close, while allowing freedom of movement.

Last year, ASTM International, the group that sets voluntary standards for many juvenile products, began to develop a standard for this class of products. This is a difficult undertaking since some products are no more than a length of material.

CPSC has (as of fall 2009) about 50 injury complaints on the slings -- most were skull fractures or closed head injuries from falls -- either the baby falling out or the caregiver falling with the baby in the product. But 12 were deaths. While five were labeled 'undetermined', seven listed positional asphyxiation or suffocation as the cause. Unbeknown to the caregiver carrying the child, the child had moved into a position that cut off air flow.

Consumer Reports warned against the use of slings in a blog post last year, citing these same issues and the lack of a standard.

Before using a sling, read all instructions carefully. If your's doesn't come with adequate instructions, look for one that does -- some even have DVD's to give parents more information. Make sure the baby can't fall into a position where her or her chin is pressed to the chest or with the face against the mother's body or the sling material. As soon as CPSC's warning is available (really -- don't announce something that isn't ready!!) we will post it here.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

CPSC issues "consent decree" and $2 million civil penalty to Daiso Holdings

"When you look at where we have been and where we are headed", said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum, only two weeks ago, "you can see why we are agency on the rise." It seems that these words are beginning to translate into actions.

With the strengthening it received from the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has begun to assert itself. On March 1 the CPSC took resolute measures against Daiso Holding USA Inc., a toy importer and repeated violator of federal safety standards. Besides a $2.05 million civil penalty, CPSC has issued an unprecedented "consent degree", preventing Daiso from importing or selling any of its products until it implements a comprehensive product safety program and all its toys meet federal standards. Daiso has voluntarily withdrawn its products from all retail outlets until the above conditions are met.

"This landmark agreement for an injunction sets a precedent for any firm attempting to distribute hazardous products to our nation's children", said Chairman Tenenbaum. "We are committed to the safety of children's products and we will use the full force of our enforcement powers to prevent the sale of harmful products."

KID welcomes this assertiveness and hopes this is only the beginning of a trend towards more accountability. "This is really a powerful first step, ensuring that no products are sold until they're safe", said Nancy Cowles, executive director of KID, "CPSC is putting manufacturers on notice that they must put safety first."

For more information on children's product safety, you can visit kidsindanger.org or cpsc.gov.

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